Review: Demonic Toys (1992)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #697

Number of Views: Two
Release Date: March 12, 1992
Sub-Genre: Horror/Comedy
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 86 minutes
Director: Peter Manoogian
Producers: Charles Band, Anne Kelly
Screenplay: David S. Goyer
Story: Charles Band
Special Effects: Phil Meador, John Carl Buechler (uncredited)
Cinematography: Adolfo Bartoli
Score: Richard Band
Editing: Andy Horvitch
Studio: Full Moon Entertainment
Distributor: Full Moon Entertainment
Stars: Tracy Scoggins, Bentley Mitchum, Michael Russo, Jeff Weston, Daniel Cerny, Barry Lynch, Ellen Dunning, Pete Schrum, William Thorne, Richard Speight Jr., Larry Cedar, Jim Mercer, Pat Crawford Brown

Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] Martika “Toy Soldiers”

[2] Richard Band “Demonic Toys”

[3] Aerosmith “Toys in The Attic”

Have you ever wondered what happens to those poor reject toys who never quite make it off the production line? While the Buzz and Woodys of this world are busy sucking up to their respective Andys and heading off on all manner of wonderful adventures, any playthings not deemed up to snuff are either tossed in the trash can, or worse still, melted down into slag.

It’s a hard knock life for them, and they can hardly be blamed for going a little doolally, given that their lives are so bereft of purpose. The only chance they have of reinvention is if some cranky old puppeteer dusts them off and provides them a new toy chest to hang out in. As you’d imagine, the odds of this happening are decidedly long.

Thank the heavens then for Andre Toulon, savior of seven such rejects and the best daddy that a toy without a heart could ever possibly hope for. Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Tunneler, Leech Woman, Shredder Khan and Gengie made the very most of his hospitality back in 1989, when Charles Band’s production house, Full Moon Features, brought us David Schmoeller’s Puppet Master.

Having plied his toy maker trade two years previous with Stuart Gordon’s Dolls, Band promptly decided there was a gap in the marketplace just large enough for a few hunks of perishable plastic and his franchise has gone on to spawn no less than ten sequels, a hybrid movie, two mini-series, a comic book, and numerous other themed collectibles. What a guy.

However, the thing about Band, is that he can sniff opportunity like a fart in a confessional, and one ongoing cash-spinner just didn’t feel like enough. The Puppet Master canon may have been firing on all cylinders by the turn of the nineties but what of the knickknacks that never made the final cut? With the shrewd advice “waste not, want not” ringing in his ears, alongside the sound of worldwide cash registers chiming in unison I’d imagine, he offered a handful of expired undesirables the chance to make a name for themselves too.

Naturally, the competition was tough as any toys previously deemed surplus to requirements were forced to battle it out for their spot beneath the limelight. However, with the collective title, Demonic Toys, up for grabs, not to mention their very own starring vehicle, it wasn’t long before the true go-getters floated to the top of the broth. Band responded in kind by casting them in his B-grade extravaganza and the rest, as they say, is history. One sequel and two crossovers later, they can hardly complain that they did get a decent run for their money. Anyhoots, without further in the way of ado, I guess it would be rude not to introduce the dastardly foursome who got the ball rolling in the first place.

From left to right (forgetting the two bookends as they don’t appear until the sequel), we start with Baby Oopsie Daisy – a potty-mouthed female baby doll who curiously grows a penis for Demonic Toys 2 and is proficient with both knives and firearms. Next up is Grizzly Teddy – inspired by Judy’s teddy bear from Dolls, things are fine until he tastes blood, at which point he mutates into something far less kiddy-friendly. Third on the roster is Mr. Static – a bad-tempered robot whose slow movement speed is counterbalanced by the ability to fire off blue laser beams that can burn through human flesh as though it were rice paper. And last but by no means least is Jack Attack – a Jack-in-the-box with one distinct difference. You see, aside from laughing maniacally and popping up when you least expect it with razor-sharp jaws agape, he also has a penchant for bludgeoning folk with the rattle on the end of his tail. On their own, each of the four toys is a handful, but combined, they’re truly a four-string quartet to fear.

This is wretched news for lovers, partners, and soon to be parents, Judith (Tracy Scoggins) and Matt (Jeff Weston), a pair of undercover cops caught up in what should have been another a routine drug bust. It all goes tits up when psychotic gun dealers Hesse (Barry Lynch) and Lincoln (Michael Russo) leave Matt mortally wounded, before scurrying off into a nearby toy warehouse.

Unbeknownst to all of them, his spilled blood has awakened a sixty-six year old demon with diabolical intentions and given that it’s still groggy from all that eternal slumber, it recruits the aforementioned death squad to do its foul bidding.

The thing is, four pint-sized marauders against the same number of gun-toting humans is hardly a fair fight now is it? Fret not as director Peter Manoogian has plenty of expendable characters to throw into the melting pot, just to give these teensy terrors more of a selection to wreak havoc upon.

If you haven’t already guessed by this point, I.Q. points aren’t required to spend 86 joyously inane minutes with the Demonic Toys. Indeed, should you be afflicted with short-term Bell’s Palsy and just need a dash of cheering up, then there are few better ways to claim yourselves some much-needed hijinks. Gone are the production values of the Puppet Master series at the height of its prowess, the dialogue is little more than entry-level waffle, it would be fair to say that the screenplay from David S. Goyer (whose writing credits include Blade, Dark City, Batman Begins and Man of Steel) isn’t quite one of his best, and a fair percentage of the laughs to be gleaned from this movie are at its own expense. Do we care a solitary hoot? Hell no we don’t as high art was never on the building blocks to begin with and sometimes it’s just fun to slum it with the heathens.

Scoggins (of Babylon 5 fame) makes for a rather sumptuous lead and admirably manages to keep a straight face while being pursued by a deranged diaper-wetting Cabbage Patch reject and told to “go fuck yourself” or words to that effect, and that in itself, is no minor feat. While shot almost entirely in a solitary location, there is seldom any shortage of activity once the shit-eating fan commences its oscillation. Meanwhile, the toys themselves may look pretty innocuous at first glance but the threat that they pose is legitimate and Manoogian isn’t shy with the red stuff either, going all in whenever the miniscule budget affords such.

An afterthought like Demonic Toys could never boast the same level of care and attention as the high rolling Puppet Master franchise, but aside from an evident lack of sheen, it actually manages to rival it in the shameless entertainment stakes. Indeed, the two tribes eventually went to war for Band mainstay Ted Nicolaou’s Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys in 2004. How did that one turn out you say? Listen, I may be a glutton for punishment but find it best to space out my fast food. One thing’s for sure – the very moment I find out, you’ll be the very first to know. Until then, if you have 86 minutes spare and some brain cells that could do with a rest, knock yourselves out as this one does precisely what it states on the toy box.

Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10

Grue Factor: 3/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: Fans of Puppet Master are in for something of a treat here as Manoogian ups the ante with regards to grue and Phil Meador’s practical work really is rather spiffing, considering the distinct lack of funds at his disposal. As for the titular toys themselves, well SFX guru, John Carl Buechler, is responsible for their pleasingly macabre design although curiously he chose not to take credit for this one.

Read Puppetmaster Appraisal

Read Ghoulies Appraisal

Read Subspecies Appraisal

Read Gremlins Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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